“Telling stories and reading stories changes you. Both allow one human being to reach more deeply into the experiences of another. Both involve our two greatest gifts:
the tools of empathy and imagination.”
~ Nancy Peacock, author & NC Piedmont Laureate
I’ve been in a deep pause for weeks – from who I thought I was in the shape of my life, and with writing. It’s been insular, and quiet, and pregnant with something I don’t know, yet.
I know the value of pauses. I wrote about it here. Even included a half dozen ways to intentionally pause. And this pause has not been easy to sink into with trust that what matters to me, like connecting with you each week, will be there when I come back. Hovering in the back of my mind is what might melt away.
A pause can be a journey when you soften into it. We come out the other side changed, often with unimagined insights or a valuable shift in perspective. The same as when reading a book, or traveling. And yet, it’s not the same as riding the length of an archipelago in Taiwan on the back of a scooter, or diving into another’s created world.
Last week, thinking the December pause was over, I had two strong days flying toward goals, feeling gloriously in the flow of my two words for 2018 (Connect & Commit). I told myself ‘I’ve got this’. . . then, Bam. Violent, ugly, mean, ravaging food poisoning the very night of my high five with myself. Dehydrating fast, my legs crunched into excruciating cramps in the midst of it. All night it had me, giving me no rest ‘til 5:30am.
I didn’t move from the bed for the next 24 hrs. I slept. A glass & pitcher of water on the bedside table. Drifting in and out, I heard the soft cool hum of the small humidifier atop a towel on the floor, noticed the shift in the light thru the blinds at the window, glanced at the bright red numbers on the clock. I felt the hollow of my empty middle, and the cool straight stream of water running throat to stomach inside me each time I had a sip. I noted the 3 count glug from the humidifier when the water in the reservoir dropped, and the click in the radiators when they turned on. Waterwaterwater.
I took no measure of how I felt beyond the weight of the blankets. Gave no thought to what I was missing beyond regret over the talk I really wanted to hear about Georgia O’Keefe’s intentional garb for her persona. My world and being was rest & hydration, care of my body. The only thing that mattered.
The next day I rose with the sun. Fatigued and foggy-brained, I intended to recover that whole day I lost. I was on a roll, had to catch up, my thinking. And the fog in the brain simply wouldn’t clear. It was as if all progress forward and my list of to-do’s floated away on a breeze, and I could only watch.
The hard part is I fought that fog with every half-firing brain cell I had for two entire days. When I finally gave in, I remembered those little details of my day in bed. Marveled at how present I must’ve been to my environment. And I thought back to the Christmas fable of my last blog.
Shortly after I published ‘A Christmas Fable,’ I read a blog from 13 months earlier. I was in Santa Fe for my yearly sojourn. A time I looked forward to every year. I spent most of my days on that trip at the computer writing The Writer’s Block Myth. In the midst of this writing retreat, an author came for a personal 4-day retreat to work with me on her book. I was busy. My favorite drives into the countryside where the sky felt forever and lines of golden-yellow trees ran along waterways were rare. I mostly gazed at the saturated blue fall sky thru windows. Watched aspens and cottonwoods in the garden move thru yellows & golds to dropping their leaves. And yet, the tone of that blog was light, as was the name, ‘Saying the Word Lucky.’ The language vivid. I was present to the writing, and there was joy at the heart of my sharing. A strong contrast to the blog I’d just written where I described a day where I was indeed intensely present in every moment, and yet, not present in the writing.
I went back into ‘A Christmas Fable,’ added sensory details. I saw again the tiny things that touched me, and added them. I asked a writer-friend to re-read and share what she thought. Then, in some strange twist, I never saw her response.
When I rose from bed fatigued and spent the day after recovery, the first emails I saw were hers and another’s. Both about the Christmas fable. Both arriving 4 days earlier, before my two high-five days! I was stunned.
Each said how much the blog touched them. Joy to the heart, tears in the eyes touched them. Writing is connection. Presence in writing is the heart of connection.
I then became present to the series of pauses I’ve gone thru, and continue to be in. Both in life and in writing. I’d not written in a month, a pause that was needed. And I’d not paused in the writing for connection with myself or the reader. That pause also something needed. I caught the disconnect, and still it took the pause with foggy brain to bring me back to the present of what matters right now as I chart this next year.
I don’t know what this extended deep pause is about. It feels like I’m near some sort of new, unknown event horizon. I can make myself crazy, or I can trust it to unfold and focus on the next thing in front of me. What I know is how we are with our writing is how we are in our life, and visa versa. As actress Elizabeth Moss said, “We are the story in print, and we are writing the story ourselves.” And in the writing, we change a little inside. It’s a very good thing. It’s time I get back writing.
I leave you with this wish from Neil Gaiman, and me:
“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next <this> year, you surprise yourself.”
Time to surprise ourselves.
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